I didn’t see it coming, and David Fickling certainly didn’t. But when Daughter does something, she does it thoroughly. As David enthused at length about Alan Garner and his writing, which he admires very much, he mentioned god’s head (that might not be how it is spelled) and mused about what it might be. Without missing a beat Daughter explained that it’s an Alderley Edge pub, and David was very pleased to have an explanation at last. And then she had to go and let on that she’d just made it up.
(I was thinking that I was a wee bit surprised at her knowledge of pubs, especially in Alderley Edge, but you never know what your babies grow up to know, do you?)
He took it well.
After my Random trip to London five months ago I knew that I had to go and visit David’s Oxford office, because it’s like publishers offices used to be like, and generally really wonderful, according to those who get to go there with their books. The lovely Matilda put us into the diary and threatened – ever so nicely – that there’d be weeding to do in their garden. It seems Linda Newbery and her recent book Lob, about the Green Man, had something to do with that. I believe Linda planted some trees out there. It looked really pleasant, and we were let off the gardening in the end.
On their other outside there was scaffolding. There is always scaffolding wherever I go. It sees me coming. Here it was padded in yellow stuff. Presumably to prevent me injuring myself when walking straight into it. I had wondered if DFB has the whole house in Beaumont Street, but on the top floor they have stashed some dentists who are used to persuade authors to behave. Other measures against difficult writers involves incarceration in the basement. We found two men down there, ostensibly ‘working’ on comics and covers, but I don’t believe that. It’s also where David keeps his bike, and I can just imagine him racing through Oxford, red scarf trailing in the wind.
I do like a colour co-ordinated man. (Or have I said that before?) It’s all to do with Mother Fickling, whose clothes shopping expeditions little David didn’t care for. But once he knew he had to dress for an ‘audience’ he hit on his ironic style, which is very Fickling. Red bow tie, occasional red scarf, and red socks. And shirt and trousers in-between. Saw no evidence of shoes. Captain’s hat hanging on clothes tree.
Once we’d Garnered on about Alderley, we moved on to where we belong, and David does a good falsetto when he talks about Australia, which is nice, but not for him. Neither was Spain. He’s learning Japanese, but is most likely not contemplating moving there. He likes Oxford, and his house where you can’t swing even a small cat.
David and I have both – separately – worked our way through what the library had to offer, and that’s how he feels you should expand your reading, by trying new things. He reckons the UK is bad for comics, and he still hopes to remedy this by bringing his DFC back. He will not be beaten.
Among the many DFB books both in David’s room and in Matilda’s front office he has some shelves with his own childhood books. And Daughter pointed out how many different language versions of Philip Pullman’s books she could see. I noticed lots of copies of Jan Mark’s Useful Idiots, and I hadn’t known David worked with Jan.
Someone else who works at DFB is Bella Pearson, and on the same upstairs floor we encountered something as rare as an editor of adult books. She remained safely behind a closed door, and David did a passable Attenborough commentary on this species.
As I mentioned yesterday, Matilda went and got us sandwiches for lunch, although David said he’d be happy to take us out (must remember that) and even threatened us with sushi (we’re northerners for goodness’ sake!). Once we’d sorted our chicken from our falafel we did very well. Even Daughter managed fine, avoiding all tomatoes, and the root vegetable crisps.
If he is to be believed it seems David has a past in Swedish geography, and accidentally ended up at Cambridge through having read a book on history. Now he’d quite like to do physics… But he’d rather avoid blogging, so let’s be grateful for that.
And after our little battle over the k-word, David gave in at the end. One day I’ll learn to curb my typing, but I guess that’s not today.
(Photos by Helen Giles)